Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Louise E. Rule interviews MARGARET SKEA for The Review's Author Interview

Welcome to The Review's Author Interview

The author who is joining us today is Margaret Skea, author of Turn of the Tide.

Product description from

Old rivalries - new friendships - dangerous decisions. Set in 16th century Scotland, Munro owes allegiance to the Cunninghams and to the Earl of Glencairn but befriends a member of the Montgomerie clan antagonizing William, the arrogant and vicious Cunningham heir. And antagonizing William is a dangerous game to play.

Also from the front of Turn of the Tide:

Margaret Skea was born in Ulster, and now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders. Her degree in Linguistics at St. Andrews University was followed by a Ph.D on the Ulster-Scots vernacular, which led, in turn, to an interest in 16th century Scottish history. An Hawthornded Fellow and award winning writer: Historical Fiction Winner in 2011 Harper Collins and Alan Titchmarsh People's Novelist Competition, Neil Gunn 2011, Chrysalis Prize 2010, and Winchester 2009. A finalist in the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition and shortlisted for Mslexia Short Story 2012, she has been long-listed in the Fish Short Story and Fish One Page Prize, and published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA.

During the Alan Titchmarsh Show in ITV, in which the People's Novelist Competition was featured, Jeffrey Archer, who was one of the judges, commented that the quality of Margaret's writing and research was outstanding, while Penny Smith, also a judge, particularly commended Margaret's use of dialogue.

Margaret is now writing a sequel to Turn of the Tide, and her working title is A House Divided.

Welcome, Margaret, to The Review's Author Interview.

You did a Blog Hop recently on Facebook describing your main character in your new novel. Your WIP, A House Divided, opens in 1597. What draws you to this time in history?

These books were always intended to be part of a series, so I have an overall story arc for the first three that cover the time period of 1586 - c 1607. Turn of the Tide finished in 1591 and I thought long and hard about when to pick up the Munros' story. There were several factors that influenced my decision to go for 1597.

  1. Historical events (in the Montgomerie family history) that I intended to feature suggested the closing years of the 16th century.
  2. Pinpointing exactly when to break into the story was more difficult. However, as Kate Munro is the main focus, I needed some years to have elapsed in order for her to have had time to establish herself as a 'wise woman', and I also wanted to develop the characters of the Munro children, particularly as they negotiated the transition from childhood to adulthood. 
  3. The most difficult decision of all was the period that the book would span, and I'm still swithering about that one!
Do you have a special place where you like to write, and do you prefer to write at a particular time of day, Margaret?

I moved all around the house while I was writing Turn of the Tide, following the sun - I find it very hard to write while cold - but now I have the luxury of a desk, beside a wall covered in post-it notes, maps, and photos of potentially relevant historic buildings. I have a small post-it note with a heading for each chapter stuck on the desk itself so that I can move them about as necessary and they are colour-coded according to who they relate to. The idea is that I can see at a glance the balance within the book. (That's the theory anyway!) As for time of day - I get up around 6.00 am and try to do some writing before breakfast. If I can do that then I can return to it later in the day when real life permits.

Some writers do drafts in long hand first, and then edit as they transcribe to the computer. What is your preferred method of writing, Margaret?

I generally write straight onto my laptop - I can type faster than I can write, and much more legibly! But if I'm not actually writing when an idea comes to me I jot it down and add in to my 'wall'. Each day I usually start by reading through and lightly editing the last few paragraphs from the previous day, but if I see a major problem in what I've written I leave it to be sorted out at a later stage and try to keep going. Otherwise I'd never get past chapter one. However for main edits I print out the manuscript and work in longhand on the printed version - a little pricey on paper, but for me it's important to see the hard copy. I also like to read the manuscript aloud at this stage, and that is tricky from a screen. Especially as my laptop is a little 11" one, so the screen isn't huge, and I prefer to stand up to do that read through.

How important is an historical note addendum when one is writing a historical fiction novel?

I felt it important to have a very short -less than a page - historical note at the start of Turn of the Tide in order to place the book in its broader historical context. However there was some specific information - for example where I had tampered with documented history in order to fulfil the needs of the story - which I included as an addendum. It would have spoiled the story to come clean earlier, but with issues such as this I think the reader has a right to know. They may also be curious (I certainly am) as to the balance between fact and fiction in an historical novel, and an addendum is the obvious place to answer that question. But, although addenda are important I believe that they should be as short as possible.

Do you see these novels becoming a series?

As I said earlier, I've always had the desire to write a series about the Munro family, and I'm desperate to get them into Ulster and the private plantation of Co Down in the 17th century. There is so much fascinating history relating to the Montgomerie family that I can tap into to provide the backdrop to a continuing story. It was also a period of great change within society as a whole, so plenty of scope there, too. I hope I can do it, and them, justice. How far will I take them I'm not sure, but the temptation is to go at least as far as the English Civil War period (1640s).

Finally, I would like to ask you about your character Kate Munro. She comes across as a really strong character, with knowledge of obstetrics and gynaecology. How do you see this aspect of your character developing?

Hard to answer this without giving away too much of the plot, but I can say that she (and her daughter Maggie) will both continue and further develop their interest in medicine, regardless of any dangers that it will expose them to. There were female pioneers in the field of medicine at this period and I see no reason why Kate shouldn't be one of them!

Thank you so much for taking part in this interview, Margaret; it's been extremely interesting and most enjoyable.

Margaret Skea can be found here on Facebook.

Turn of the Tide can be bought from

If you would like to help Margaret Skea win the Peoples' Book Prize please vote for _Turn of the Tide_ at the link, thank you.

Louise E. Rule is author of Future Confronted and can be bought from and

Louise can be found on Facebook here.


  1. You've hooked me now, Miss Louise--I simply must look into these books!!

  2. Fantastic interview. Another book I must read. Added to my wish list. Sounds wonderful.

  3. Sounds a great book ,Loved the interview Louise !